Friday, July 28, 2006

Loud is the new loud


That Newton knew a thing or two - and I'm not just talking about apples.

Take his Third Law, for instance: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction". That would explain why, after spending time recently listening to a clutch of neglected indiepop bands (courtesy of Jonathan) and trying desperately to come to terms with Belle & Sebastian (courtesy of Mandy), I should find myself craving sheer volume.

Hence my turning to the post-hardcore of Yourcodenameis:milo and the gargantuan riffage of Japanese noiseniks Envy, and my desire to see 'Metal: A Headbanger's Journey'. And hence, too, my decision to spend a sweltering evening in the underground sweatbox that is the Barfly for a night of aural abuse.

First up are a local threepiece called Venus Elixir (though I could have sworn frontman Paul Van Der Kamp introduces them as "Wiener Schnitzel" halfway through the set - perhaps my ears are already going...). The majority of their songs sound like Placebo with a bee up their collective arse (no bad thing, either), but they're not especially tight and, to put it kindly, Van Der Kamp is not a great singer no matter how far you stretch your imagination. That said, the sound mix hardly does them any favours.

Far more impressive are Deguello. Taking their name from a 1979 ZZ Top album, they are perhaps the most unlikely-looking combination of musicians I've ever seen: a curly mop-haired bassist / vocalist sporting a Bad Brains T-shirt, a short incredibly enthusiastic drummer who - with his long hair, dodgy 'tache and skeleton print T-shirt - looks like a character from 'Heavy Metal Parking Lot', and a female guitarist whose presence would be remarkable enough (how many women do you know in stoner rock bands?!) even without her Topshop attire.

Whether or not they're a "drug experiment" (as one friend suggests), they rock - pure and simple. Winnebago Deal think enough of them to have produced them and brought them on tour (this being the last night), and for a while I'm wondering if it's a decision the headliners might rue. But there is something of a lull mid-set prior to the storming conclusion, so the threatened upstaging never quite happens. A close thing, though.

When another of my companions saw Winnebago Deal around this time last year, he was on a first date. Even better, she suggested it. As he put it, "I knew I was on to a winner"...

Last time I saw them, at Leeds 2003, they heralded the return of an awful hangover, and seeing them again now it's understandable. My ears are physically hurting after about twenty minutes of their hour-long set.

Playing to a disappointingly sparse crowd which includes a Gwar fan and all of Deguello, the two Bens rampage through track after track at breakneck pace. It's Motorhead meets Mudhoney, grunge kids discovering hard rock and playing it straight and fast and brutal without a hint of irony. It's not hard to see why they've recently been playing with ex Queens Of The Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri in Mondo Generator.

As the set progresses, drummer Ben Thomas's T-shirt gradually changes from light to dark grey with sweat like one of those Global Technicolour T-shirts. I'm convinced they won't be able to maintain the intensity for the whole duration of the set, but they do. In there somewhere are 'With Friends Like These', recent single 'Spider Bite' and the title track from their latest LP Flight Of The Raven. The evening ends with a Black Flag cover - I'm assuming it's 'Revenge', as that closes the album. Deguello's bassist performs vocal duties with gusto in Oliveri's place, but not before lambasting us for being a "lame" crowd. All I can say in our defence is that just listening to this stuff is exhausting enough.

A note on the Winnebago Deal website about the recording of Flight Of The Raven says: "On the seventh twelve hour day of listening to brutally loud heavy guitars through studio speakers Jack Endino was seen holding his head, saying: 'It's punishing me....PLEASE MAKE IT STOP'". I know how you felt, Jack. My tinnitus is still with me nearly three full days later.

Back to the soothing sounds of Anathallo and Cat Power it is, then...

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